Great (under-the-radar) Vancouver Hikes: Norvan Falls

NorvanFalls-26Nature lovers in the city know that Lynn Canyon Park in North Vancouver is beautiful … but crowded.  On weekends, visitors queue up for a chance to cross the iconic suspension bridge and busy trails feel more like city sidewalks.

But just a few kilometres north at the Lynn Headwaters Regional Park is an entirely different experience: fewer people, more trails and scenery that’s no less gorgeous.

I checked out the area over the weekend on a hike to Norvan Falls.  At 12 kilometres roundtrip (about four-five hours of moderate-paced walking), the trail is a bit long but pays off with incredible river views and a pristine waterfall at the end.

Getting to Lynn Headwaters Regional Park requires following Lynn Valley Road all the way to the end of the line, where it turns Rice Lake Road, a narrow, winding lane that traces the course of the river.  After parking, I crossed a broad wooden bridge over Lynn Creek and reached the trailhead, where a large map shows the route to Norvan Falls and other destinations.

The first part of the trail immediately plunges into thick cedar forest.  Tall trees hung with moss formed a canopy overhead, with shafts of sunlight breaking through.  The trail here is a wide gravel road, and over the weekend quite a few families with dogs (and even strollers) were out for a walk.  The entire forest here was logged in the early 1900s, and old metal tools and rusting carts are still visible.

NorvanFalls-3But the true showstopper is Lynn Creek.  Eventually, the trail rounded a corner and the creek came into view – broad and clear, with postcard-perfect, snow-capped mountains in the background.  I scrambled down to the riverbank and admired the view – a glimpse of raw wilderness just a few minutes from downtown Vancouver.

The trail reaches a junction after a few kilometres and the going gets a bit rougher, following a route known as the Cedar Mills Trail. I crossed a series of small streams and made my way over wooden boardwalks built over muddy pools.  Further on, the trail spills out into an unexpected clearing – a debris chute left over from a long forgotten landslide.

NorvanFalls-14At this point, the route veers away from the river and into the mountains for a slow, steady climb.  The second-growth forest here is spare and open; rod-straight trunks of hundreds of trees create the illusion of a giant cathedral, crowned with a green canopy overhead.  Everywhere there are signs of the forest’s past life: rusty nails and tools scattered along the trail and even long stretches of old logging road, paved with weathered wooden timbers.

NorvanFalls-20The sound of rushing water indicates Norvan Falls is near.  At a final junction, a steel suspension bridge crosses Norvan Creek, offering access to another set of trails and some seriously rugged backcountry.  I decided to save that adventure for another day and instead followed a narrow trail for a few hundred metres along the river to my final destination: Norvan Falls.  A torrent of water shoots from a rocky ledge and plummets straight down for about 20 metres, splashing into a pool on the bottom.

NorvanFalls-24I sat down on a rock on the edge of the creek to admire the view.  Thick forest framed the falls and the sun broke through the clouds, lighting up the water. Back at Lynn Canyon Park, crowds were fighting for parking spots and hikers were jostling for space on the bridges and trails.  But just a few kilometres away, I had an entire waterfall to myself.

For directions to Lynn Headwaters Regional Park and a detailed description of the Norvan Falls trail, check out the always-useful Vancouver Trails website

Any fans of Lynn Headwaters Park out there? Let us know below. 

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